Saturday 6 October 2012

Shugborough in the sun

On this fine, sunny day we explored the parts of the Shugborough estate that NT membership gets you a concession on. We'll come back and do the free bits another day.

Interesting it certainly was – not so much the follies, but the representation of a 19th century working estate, with labourers and servants in costume, and mindset to suit. A museum of how they actually did it in Times Past. Lots of Objects to delight and amaze.

The question for Shugborough visitors is whether to see Downton Abbey (ITV) or Servants: the true story of life below stairs (BBC2/Open University). Is this romantic or despicable? Or simply how it was? The world today got to be what it is by the specific route it followed. It's very easy, from a contemporary perspective, to criticise the abuses of power that now seem all too obvious. It is surely far harder to offer an accurate, lasting critique of your own times. And, after all, it was through the particular course we took, including the social inequalities, that the innovations came into being from which we now benefit and which we take for granted.

The word "traditional" appeared a lot today – it's on the packet of stoneground flour we brought home from the mill. But what does it conjure up – cosy, stable, wholesome, folk wisdom, things as they ought to be? Or stuck-in-the-mud, unwilling to flex or change, how we did it before we knew better? No one would want to be using the laundry methods we saw today. Not many would argue for the social stratification. So there's a tension here. We enjoyed a thoroughly enlightening talk with "Isaac" the miller, who taught us all sorts of stuff about how flour works, understanding that balances modern knowledge of nutrition.

Traditions often exist because no-one thought of doing it any different. But some are there simply because they are right.


Post a Comment